When giants like Rockefeller Foundation, whom we all look up to for when it comes to funding urban projects, interpret resilience of a city as an alien venture for the vulnerable halves of the urban community, we are made to reevaluate our disposition. Recent demise of 100 Resilient Cities project, has raised doubts on external philanthropic supports for mitigating urban risks. The organisation’s president exclaims, “It’s a shift in the foundation’s focus to delivering measurable results for vulnerable people, with a budget framework that works.” This unexpected withdrawal has awakened many urbanists, who are now beginning to redefine the way urban resilience is perceived.
Urban resilience depends on urban mindset, understood as the manner in which societal roles are perceived by individuals in an urban community. People respond to city level risks based on the urban mindset they adopt. This imparts value to various planning variables and becomes the guiding source for policy making. Hence while building resilient cities, political parties and planners focus on strengthening the city for public use but fail to reform the urban mindset.
Many urban proclamations have measured a city’s resilience through its infrastructure. While this technique is broadly considered an accurate reflection of a city’s state to deal with shocks, but it ideally fails at including people’s capacity to retaliate. This is a major flaw in the resilience evaluation, as it depicts its performance in isolation. Thus the capacitating projects are invariably focused on resource building and much less towards community building.
The complexity of urban fabric demands reliance on its inhabitants for an efficient working of the system. In a democratic scenario it translates into observing and refining urban mindset of citizens, which reflects upon usage and maintenance of built infrastructure. In other words, for building resilient cities, we need resilient communities. This cannot be better conveyed by any other system than what Netherlands has developed. Aimed at resilient development, their planning policies empower locals by educating them about immediate urban risks. Raising public awareness about their geographical complexity has resulted in easy user adaptation to newer climate change responsive technologies.
Resilience needs to be embedded in the system, in its governing, in its people and not superimposed through streamlined projects, which have a sustainable outlook in isolation but when plugged in, they crash the whole system. Many times this occurs due to misalignment of project’s complexity with the capacity of people to adapt. Acknowledging user behavior before and raising user awareness during project implementation, would bring resilience to the urban mindset for in time functioning of project.
Thus investing in rebuilding of urban mindsets towards resilience can ultimately lead to self sufficient resilient cities in the longer run.
Featured image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash